OPINIONS – A letter to Sen. Susan Collins: Is there a cynical plan to bankrupt USPS?

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY

by Eugene Bryant, of Palermo

This letter was sent to Sen. Susan Collins by Eugene Bryant, of Palermo.

Dear Senator Collins:

First, thanks to you and your staff for your ongoing service in these difficult times. Considering everything else that’s been going on, I’m writing about a somewhat less dramatic issue, the United States Postal Service.

One of the charges I heard leveled against you in the last election was that you had sponsored or supported the bill that mandates the USPS fund, in just a few years, the full retirement and health insurance costs for its employees out for an incredibly long period – is it 70 years? It seems that no other public or private entity has ever been required to do this. This utterly baffled me until I heard the contention that it represents a cynical effort to bankrupt the Postal Service so that private delivery companies such as FedEx and UPS can acquire the most profitable parts of it. If it were not for this unreasonable mandate, the USPS would apparently be showing a decent profit.

People sneer at “snail mail”. But we all take it for granted that the Postal Service will safely and securely carry an original document practically from door to door anywhere in the U.S., usually in three or four days, for little over 50 cents.

I have been the executor for both my mother’s and elder brother’s estates and have depended on first class mail for transferring legal documents and sometimes checks for considerable sums. I never had any problems, until fairly recently.

Since Donald Trump’s appointee took over the Postal Service there has been a noticeable decline in the quality of service. The hours at rural post offices were cut back so that it became more difficult to mail packages or purchase stamps. Then, it was on the news that letter-sorting machines had been arbitrarily removed from many busy regional mail centers, although some were later returned. I understand you helped with that. Thank you.

Last year, I sent a letter to an out-of-state address. Over a month later it came back here as undeliverable – the street number was incorrect. There are fewer than 15 houses on the road to which it was addressed, so I doubt the letter made it as far as the actual postal carrier on the ground. Without exception the men and women I have known who carry the mail the last few miles are dedicated and knowledgeable people who take pride in bringing our letters, periodicals, and packages to their destinations as expeditiously as possible.

Earlier this year I delivered several cases of produce to the Curra family farmstand in Knox – perhaps you know it – it’s just below Knox Four Corners and the (former) Ingraham farm equipment dealership. Peter Curra, who is in his 80s and still works full time on the farm, was out, but later sent me a check for several hundred dollars. He had misplaced my street number and just wrote “Banton Road” on the envelope. There are 20-some homes here on the Banton Road and I’ve been living in this particular one for 45 years. For most of those years, my address was simply RFD #1, Palermo.

About a month later, Pete called me to ask if I’d gotten the check since it hadn’t showed up as cashed on his monthly bank statement. I searched my records and messy desk but couldn’t account for it. Finally, almost two months after it was sent, the letter came back to him as “undeliverable”. Again, I doubt if it made it as far as the Palermo Post Office and our regular mail carrier, Kirby, who is incredibly competent and hard working, and was officially diverted somewhere upstream.

Now I hear that the standard for first class mail delivery is to be slowed by several more days. The lifelines of people who obtain medications and other vital goods and services through the mail will be threatened.

From the earliest days of our nation the postal service was created as one of the essential public functions to help knit together a large and diverse country. Next to Social Security, it remains just about the most popular governmental institution. Please explain, Senator Collins, your past votes on this issue and what you intend to do to ensure the future viability of the United States Postal Service.

(Editor’s note: A reply from Sen. Collins was received and will be printed in next week’s issue.)

 
 

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